Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), definition, symptoms and treatment

Jonah Lester
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), definition, symptoms and treatment

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder where the person has recurrent obsessive thoughts and compulsive activity.

Who suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, manifests obsessions and compulsions, which are recognized by the same individual who suffers from them as being of an “excessive and irrational” nature, but before which he cannot oppose, and they appear as a discomfort that interferes with his routine. and daily life, in their daily lives (work life, family life, etc.).

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a disorder that falls within the Anxiety Disorders in the DSM-V diagnostic manual.


  • What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
  • Outstanding symptoms
    • The most common obsessions
    • The most common compulsions
  • Onset and causes of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • What Causes Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
  • Who is affected?
  • Diagnosis of OCD
  • Treatment of OCD

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

An obsession is an unwanted and unpleasant thought, image or impulse that repeatedly enters a person's mind, causing feelings of anxiety, disgust or discomfort..

A compulsion is a repetitive behavior or mental act that someone feels they need to perform to try to temporarily alleviate the unpleasant feelings brought on by obsessive thinking..

For example, someone with a fear of burglary may feel like they need to close all doors and windows several times before they can leave the house..

OCD symptoms can range from mild to severe. Some people with OCD can spend an hour a day dedicated to obsessive-compulsive behavior, but for others it can last so long that it prevents them from performing daily tasks and leading a normal life.

Having OCD means having obsessions, compulsions, or both at the same time.

At some point in the course of the disorder, the person has recognized that these obsessions or compulsions are excessive or irrational.

Obsessions or compulsions are time consuming (more than one hour per day). They also cause intense distress or significantly interfere with the person's daily activities. Symptoms are not due to medication or other drug use or another medical condition.

If the person suffers from another disorder at the same time, the obsessions or compulsions cannot be related only to the symptoms of the additional disorder. For example, to be diagnosed with OCD, a person with an eating disorder must also have obsessions or compulsions that are not just related to food.

Outstanding symptoms

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is clinically heterogeneous. Patients usually present a miscellany of symptoms simultaneously. Among these symptoms, the following groups stand out:

The most common obsessions

There are many and varied obsessions that OCD sufferers suffer from. These manifest themselves in the form of thoughts, fears and also worries.

These obsessions are repeated very frequently and produce in the patient a great amount of anxiety, and although he often discriminates that they are exaggerated reasoning in this way, he cannot, despite this, control their repetition, appearance and anxiety and anguish that these produce.

Here are some more common obsessions, although in the clinic I have found some totally different from these:

  • Contamination. Observations on possible contamination by dirt, germs, viruses or foreign substances. Also the possibility of having acquired a certain disease or several (for example, HIV or cancer).
  • Verification. Doubts about having properly closed or turned off things (eg: gas, lights, windows, doors ...)
  • Drive phobias. They are characterized by an intense fear of losing control in the following ways: Sexual, Religious, and Aggressive.
  • Magical thinking. Unpleasant thoughts that if not restored by a certain behavior or image can lead to disastrous consequences.
  • "Just Right" feeling. It usually occurs with repetitions. The patient thinks that he must execute a behavior or a thought repeatedly until he is calm.
  • Somatic and / or hypochondriacal. Doubts about having contracted a disease or being ill. It can also manifest itself regarding the doubt of having an asymmetric or deformed part of the body.
  • Metaphysical. Doubts about the future or existence.
  • Tell. Need to count the number of cars on a street, for example, or the number of windows in a building.

It is important to know that those who suffer from OCD are clear that their intrusive thoughts and images are irrational, but this does not help them to stop or prevent them, they cannot..

So in the search for a solution, and as a way to get rid of them, it is then that he adopts a compulsive behavior, and here the rituals appear.

So, and to be clear, compulsions are repetitive behaviors and in the form of a ritual that the patient performs and as a way to reduce or stop the anxiety that the obsessions produce..

The most common compulsions

Here is a list of the most common compulsions:

  • Wash your hands repeatedly
  • Accumulation: Collect insignificant objects with difficulty to get rid of them.
  • Reviews: Recheck and repeatedly that you have closed the door
  • Order: Put all the objects in the pantry (kitchen, bathroom, etc.) in absolute order.
  • Order and symmetry. Search for perfection. Intense tension and discomfort when seeing or thinking that these objects can be touched or moved in a different order, such as putting the vase back in the exact center of the table, and observing from different angles that it is exactly in the center, equidistant of all points.

Task that can take anywhere from minutes to hours, every day. This therefore affects you throughout your relationship, work, family, social life, etc..

Onset and causes of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

It generally begins in adolescence, or youth, but there are also cases in which it has occurred in children. There is no relationship in terms of sex, that is, it occurs in both men and women and may have a family origin, although I have noticed in the various cases that have occurred in the consultation, that in many, not all, it could be assumed which is related to a very rigorous education, and I have also seen cases in which it has been associated with violence in this education, on the part of the parent who manifested his also obsessive and rigorous behavior.

It is possible that OCD is also accompanied by other types of anxiety, phobias, sometimes it manifests depression, and on the other hand it is also common that as a way to avoid situations of facing its obsessions, it resorts to alcohol or drugs to relieve its anxiety, without success of course.

What Causes Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

It is not clear exactly what causes OCD, although different factors have been suggested.

In some cases, the disease can be inherited, linking to certain inherited genes that affect brain development.

Brain imaging studies have shown that the brains of some people with OCD may be different from the brains of people who do not have this condition. For example, increased activity in certain areas of the brain, particularly those dealing with strong emotions and responses to them.

Studies have also shown that people with OCD have a serotonin imbalance in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical that the brain uses to transmit information from one brain cell to another..

Who is affected?

It is estimated that around 3% of the general population suffers from this type of anxiety disorder to a more or less mild degree, and in a serious state it is suffered by around 0.8% of adults and 0.25% of children and adolescents..

OCD usually begins during adolescence or early adulthood, although it can also begin earlier, during childhood. In men it tends to have an earlier onset (between 6-15 years of age) than in women (20-25 years of age).

The onset of the disorder is usually gradual, although cases of acute onset have been observed. Most of the cases show moderate improvement with pharmacological and psychological treatment. However, they become chronically ill albeit with ups and downs of symptoms in relation to stressful events. 15% of patients present an intense and progressive deterioration of mental functioning with serious disturbance in social and work ties.

Diagnosis of OCD

There are three characteristics that must be present in the patient to be diagnosed with OCD and they are:

  • Your activity takes at least an hour a day
  • You feel a lot of distress about your obsessions and compulsions
  • He cannot, due to their impediments, develop a normal life

Treatment of OCD

Generally, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a method most used in the treatment of OCD. CBT is a type of psychotherapy that aims to help the patient change the way they think, feel and behave. Different treatment techniques are usually used:

  • Exposition. It consists of exposing the patient to situations and objects that activate fear and anxiety. Over time, the anxiety generated by these obsessive signals decreases and the level of anxiety they cause decreases significantly. This is called habituation.
  • Response Prevention. Response prevention refers to the ritualistic behaviors that people with OCD use to reduce anxiety. This part of the treatment helps patients learn to resist the compulsion to perform these rituals..

Other techniques focus on purely cognitive therapy (CT). People who participate in this type of therapy work to eliminate compulsive behavior. This is done by identifying and reassessing your beliefs about the consequences of engaging in or not engaging in compulsive behavior..

Once these intrusive thoughts and the meanings that the person applies to them are recognized, the therapist encourages the person to:

  • Identify cognitive distortions in assessments of obsession
  • Develop a less threatening and alternative response to the current intrusive.

Psychotropic drugs such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), ansolytics, and antipsychotics can also be used..

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